Interview with Gunther Theys (Part II)
14) Let´s speak of B.M. in general. As a veteran person with such a massive background in the underground, how do you see the European scene in general? (bands/gigs/zines/fans). What do you think of the American B.M. bands which try desperatly and comically try to look Skandinavian? Do you share the idea many people have that B.M. can only be played in Europe because of our long, deep, rich history?
-It is an advantage having a historical background but interesting music can be found in the USA as well. I agree there are too many American bands who comically try to look and sound Skandinavian. Recently I read an interview of an American „B.M” band (I will not mention any names) and of course on the pictures you see them with their make up and plastic swords. In the interview they even said „Well we are an American based act but some of us have Norwegian blood”! Except for the Native Americans (Indians) everyone in the States is descending from immigrants. That is fine by me but why pretending to have Norwegian blood only because of playing in a B.M.band? Where is the pride? Also in the States one finds Death Metal acts with totally uninteresting lyrics directly taken from a horror book or splatter comic, Glam rock never was as horrible as it was in the states, even many Heavy Metal bands there are ridiculous (spinal tap!) or not even Metal at all. But still the US scene offers interesting bands too who try to find an own identity. Unfortunatelly these bands who „comically try to look/sound Skandinavian” can be found EVERYWHERE in the world, also the non Skandinavian countries in our very own Europe are polluted with bands who claim to play „True Norwegian B.M.” I think it´s unfair only to accuse American bands of imitating the Skandinavian sound. Even checking my own Belgian scene is enough to detect too many „Skandinavian” clones. I would like to take it a step further even and probably many will hate me for saying this but I believe that even Skandinavian bands who imitate the sound of the most popular Skandinavian bands are uninteresting. EVERY band should try to find an own identity no matter where they come from. There is nothing wrong with influences but plain imitation I cannot stand. I realise I might sound too nostalgic for many of your readers but at least the first generation of B.M. bands all had an own identity. VENOM sounded different from HELLHAMMER who sounded different from BATHORY. Today you have a majority of bands imitating or 1) non atmospherical „puristic” B.M. such as IMMORTAL, DARKTHRONE etc or 2) More mainstream and keyboard orientated acts such as CRADLE OF FILTH. I have nothing against the original ones but the clones really are spoiling the scene and often even are very successfull. Even more ridiculous is they don´t only imitate the music/lyrics but also the appearance! That is why I respect acts such as ARCTURUS that much because at least they dare to experiment and come up with something else. -
15) About the B.M. scene, one of the most known one is the Norwegian. Many criticize it callen them „clowns” and „buffons”, but I personally think that the happening that took place there gave B.M. a boost for all the European scene., not only for the Norwegian one and that´s why, leaving aside the violence and the murders, we should be thankful to them. Do you share my views?
- We always had a very good relationship with the Norwegian scene. I know the people in IMMORTAL, ENSLAVED, MAYHEM, EMPEROR to mention a few. There always has been mutual respect, they appreciate the fact we do not imitate their popular sound and are an ancient band with an own identity. Sure the Norwegian scene gave B.M. a boost, no doubt. The murders and church burnings have contributed to this fame but also their music is good and that is what matters at the end of the day. -
16) Talking of Europe, during your career you´ve worked in the four corners of Europe and had relationships with nearly all countries in Europe: Belgium, Norway, Germany, Hellas, Finland, Holland…Having had so much experience, are you anti- or pro- the European Union?
- I speak about five languages and understand a bit of some languages I do not speak. I feel at home everywhere in Europe and am interested in every country´s culture/history. Since I travel a lot the „open borders” policy of the European union is convenient and practical for me. I know for certain countries with a less stable economy the European Union is not always an advantage. Also I think that each country has to keep it´s own identity (that is also why I support the idea of a Flemish Republic) but I´m not into politics and my heart tells me all European countries should collaborate closely in the end, gather their forces and stand as one as a world power. I love Europe, every place of it and I think I could be labelled as a European „Nationalist”. One of our sound engineers said I am because on tour I try to speak to the crowd in their native language, at least a few words. On stage I mention the splendour of the countries´history and feel sympathy for it. As I said I´m not a politician and I think every land has to keep the own culture but the IDEA and FEELING of a United Europe, standing as one, appeals to me. On the forthcoming album there´s a track entitled „MOTHER EUROPE”, that should say enough. -
17) Having travelled so much, let me ask you a somewhat curiosity: which European country would you recommend a B.M. fan to visit considering three main points 1)Sightseeing 2)Metal clubs 3)Price of the beer. Girls are obviously taken in consideration…
- SIGHTSEEING: Every European country has it´s own charm and particular atmosphere or history so I cannot point out one place. METAL CLUBS: Hellas (Greece). Athens has a lot of Metal bars/pubs and big Metal clubs where hundreds of people are banging their heads like maniacs. In Greece ancient bands which are almost forgotten in the rest of Europe (or never really were popular) are still played in the clubs. 70´s cult stuff such as DEMON, ANGELWITCH, OSTROGOTH, TANK, BLACK WIDOW. Also 80´s underground still is celebrated but even modern underground is played in the clubs. All sorts of Metal can be heard. Athens is a headbanger´s paradise. I remember the first time we played in Athens we were taken by the members of ROTTING CHRIST to several clubs. Couldn´t believe my eyes, we immediately got drunk and woke up the next morning with a hangover and a pain in the neck of banging too much. Also Athens has many Gothic clubs. Brilliant nightlife. PRICE OF THE BEERS: In Poland I got extremely drunk and payed almost nothing. The ONLY time in my life I had a black out. One of our roadies and I went there and visited a club where we drunk lots of beer bottles and suddenly they ran out of stock because usually their customers didn´t drink that much. May be it was a club were prices were too high compared to the average Polish salary? So we started to drink all kinds of Whiskey, Vodka. The club had two floors. At one point I went to the other floor and actually believed I was in another club! That drunk I was. Next morning I told our roadie I prefered the second club we went to, he told me we never had left the club. Embarrassing indeed. But a great time I had! GIRLS: beautiful women can be found everywhere. But South European women I really find great looking (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Hellenic) with their dark curley long hair and deep dark eyes. May be it is an attraction of opposites since I am blond/blue eyed. The past seven years I only had relationships in the South of Europe. I also relate to the attitude of the South European women. In my country many women are quite materialistic and have this tendency of trying to dominate their partner, also they are less interested in art, literature or their own traditions. For almost five years now I have a relationship with a Hellenic girl who is living in Athens. -
18) Ok, let´s go back to more serious subjects. Some years ago there was this idea of playing a full ANCIENT RITES cd with medieval instruments. Has this idea been casted away or you still wish to accomplish it?
- When I have something in mind it will happen sooner or later. Only it is a bit too soon with only two albums out to come up with a classical cd. Something I very much like is that on the forthcoming album we really have medieval influences INSIDE some of our songs. In the past we transformed some of our Metal tracks in medieval music („Echoes of Melancholy”, „Fallen Angel”) or created medieval intro´s, outro´s and intermezzo´s. Now we have taken it a step further which totally fits to the concept of ANCIENT RITES. There even is a complete song on the new album which is Metal but very Folk inspired with totall classical parts in the middle. The track is called „13th of November 1307″ and deals with the mystical Templar Order. Nevertheless be sure one day this classical/medieval album of ANCIENT RITES will be in the shops. It took me years to complete a DANSE MACABRE album but finally I have accomplished it (of course I couldn´t have done it alone, do not understimate the impact of the involved musicians). The same will happen with this classical A.R. album. No doubt. -
19) Throughout these years you´ve kept playing in A.R. while other members have come and gone. Why has it been so difficult to maintain a stable line up? Do you see yourself as Belgium´s Chuck Schuldiner? Moreover, can we think of A.R. as your personal project?
- Belgium´s Chuck Schuldiner? That´s a good one! There even is a joke circulating in the scene on this topic. Some say they should organise bets or a lottery on who will be on stage with A.R. every time. When guitarist BART left we worked for a year with session guitarists. We had Erik (who now is permanent with us) from Dutch INQUISITOR, Mikael from Swedish LUCIFERION, Mike from Dutch PENTACLE, Raphael from Belgian CRUCIFIRE. Later Emil of Swedish SWORDMASTER, Blakkheim of Swedish KATATONIA and Chris of America´s BLOOD STORM/ABSU offered us their help. Of course session guitarists have schedules with their own bands that´s why on the same tour the crowd of each country almost saw a different line up on stage each time! In Spain the people saw us with another guitarist than the crowd in Italy, the Portuguese audience saw a different band than the German or French crowd. Holland was over the top: we started the set with Erik of INQUISITOR and Mikael of LUCIFERION. After a while Mikael left the stage, Erik continued on his own. Halfway the set Erik left and Mike of PENTACLE came on stage. After a while both Erik and Mike were on the stage. The audience didn´t know who was who anymore. Well A.R. is a bit of my child because after all I created the band with Philip. But since about seven years also drummer Walter is a permanent factor in the band. The reason why it is so difficult to maintain a stable line up is because we demand TOTAL dedication. A.R. above everything else: work, family, relationship, private matters. It almost sounds like a sect ah ah! I remember I was celebrating my birthday together with my girlfriend in Athens (this was planned long before) meanwhile a concert was organised in Belgium so I bought an extra ticket to return home and sacrificed the whole plan. This summer I ended up in hospital and had to be operated. A few days after the operation I was on stage headlining on a festival in Holland with still plastic tubes inside my body. Felt absolutely tired and doctors had recommended rest because the whole healing schedule wasn`t completed but I went on stage anyway. Walter seriously damaged his hand at work but he was playing the same week anyway. Guitarist Jan Yrlund had a plan to celebrate his birthday with his partner but last week I told him there was a concert abroad so he had to cancel everything. Soon we will tour Europe several times again and in between seperate concerts are planned in and outside of Belgium. Meanwhile we are spending more than a month already here in Germany on the recordings. It really affect private life. Relationships end because of this or you start to lose contact with old friends. At the same time playing in a band like A.R. doesn´t really offer money or enough security but still we put it above a job. Not many people are that fanatic (crazy?) to sacrifice EVERYTHING. We also tell every member that joins us that whenever he´s unable to play a concert he immediately will be replaced by a session musician for that particular tour or concert. When the reason for absence is acceptable the musician will keep his permanent place in the band though but no matter what happens no concert or tour will be canceled (unless promoters cancel it). Philip was one of my closest friends ever. He died a few days before a concert, we went on stage anyway and dedicated our set to him. We wanted this, his parents as well and above all HE would have wanted it too, never met such a fanatic and dedicated person like him, Walter and I still miss him and keep the same attitude/spirit alive. We demand it from the other members as well. Or the friendship soon is over -
20) Let´s speak on A.R.´s lyrics. Many seem to deal with the typical B.M. topics such as Occultism, Satanism…What do you think of these doctrines? Nowadays mainstream trend in B.M. is Paganism, What are your views on it? Do you consider it alright to fight against Christianity to bring the ancient European´s religion?
- Of course we deal with topics typical for the genre but I like to think we have a different approach. We do not write about demons or stuff directly taken from the NECRONOMICON (which is interesting literature but remains fiction) like many bands do or invent over the top names for so called evil forces. When I travelled the Sahara desert by camel and horse (which was a great experience) I saw the remains of an ancient city and entered the temple of Baalberith where in ancient times children sacrifices took place. Immediately it was an inspiration which resulted in the theme of the intro on our debut album. I think reality often is darker and more cruel than fiction so why should I invent horror stories when history provides centuries and centuries of gloom? Sometimes we present Satanism in a symbolic way when we refer to biblical characters such as Lucifer but it always has a deeper meaning. In those cases we use names known to the Christian world to mock their beliefs, like „fighting” them with their own weapons. Our label received protests from a Turkish community in Germany because we mentioned the poisoning of moslem profet Mohammed in our „Blood of Christ (Mohammed Wept)” track. I studied a bit on the koran to detect the weak points, same with the bible. Be sure it is more effective than a simple „Fuck Christ” or „Fuck Allah” slogan. Also I think we focus a lot more on history than most other bands in our scene, it is a lifetime long fascination of mine which reflects on the lyrics I write. Concerning Paganism, as I stated earlier I think it makes more sense than imported religions, it is connected with the traditions of a people. If people wish to believe in Santa Claus, Donald Duck, god or allah that is fine by me but I do not like it when they try to force their ignorant fairytales down everyone´s throat. I ONLY believe what I see. -
21) Ok, that´s all. Thank you very much for standing this long and heavy interview. Last words are up to you…
- It was a marathon indeed Andreas. Will your readers really read all this? The pleasure was completely mine because of your intelligent questions and the fact you were extremely well informed. On the 31st of may we play together with DEICIDE, BRUTAL TRUTH and SIX FEETH UNDER in Spain (Barcelona) I believe. Hope to see the people we´ve met last time we played your country. Take care, EVIL PREVAILS! -